Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

The Full Suburban: Sharing our deep-seated fears over dinner

The Ditto family recently had a quirky dinner conversation about their deepest fears.  (Courtesy of Julia Ditto)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

My mom and I like telling disturbing, sad stories. I don’t know what’s wrong with us, but we can’t help it. We’ll be sitting at the dinner table, visiting my mom, and she’ll start telling us about some circus act where the bears ate the trainers, and everyone fled in a panic.

I heard that there were limbs everywhere,” she’ll say as my kids hold their forks midair, and the 6-year-old wets his pants. Then later in the week, I’ll find myself telling my kids about a tragic Mount Everest expedition, the history of the Donner party or the entire plot of “Old Yeller.”

I guess it’s in our blood. My brothers and I distinctly remember visiting our great-grandparents in California and our great-grandma tucking us into bed by telling us a bedtime story about – this is no joke – a family riding through the forest on a horse-drawn sleigh that suddenly starts getting chased by a pack of wolves.

And to shake the wolves off their trail, the mom starts chucking her children off the sleigh as the family drives on. Sleep tight, kids! Who needs horror movies when you have bedtime stories like that, right? But still, I was surprised a couple weeks ago when we were enjoying Sunday dinner, and one of my kids launched into a recounting of the bad dream he had the night before.

“I was so scared when I woke up,” he said. “I couldn’t even move. I just laid there and stared at the underside of the bunk bed until I fell back asleep.” “Yeah, you never know,” said another one of my children who went on to explain that every night before bed, he closes his door and stands in the corner of his room so he can do a full sweep of the premises before climbing into bed.

“Ooh, ooh, my turn!” piped in another kid. “Every time I go down to the basement, I have to run past the part of the hallway where the bathroom door lines up with the door to the spare bedroom.” “What’s so scary about the two doors?” I asked.

“You can’t check both rooms at the same time!” exclaimed a completely different kid who apparently shares the same fear. “While you’re looking into one room to make sure it’s clear, you could get blindsided from the other!”

“Blindsided by what?” Logan asked. “There’s nothing down there except toys, the TV and a ping pong table.” “Uh, a zombie, a guy with a gun, Gollum, whatever!” the kid replied, exasperated that his naive parents were asking such dim-witted questions.

For the next 15 minutes, Logan and I listened in bemused silence as our kids went back and forth sharing all the things they were scared of, including people clinging to ceilings; and random men appearing behind them when they raise their head after spitting toothpaste into the bathroom sink.

Also: zombies and something called a zombie ball, which is apparently a group of zombies that has been rolled up into a ball and then tossed down the stairs in pursuit of an unwitting 6-year-old. They went on and on and on until all of us were busting into laughter as the fears got more and more outrageous.

“What in the world?” I said. “For kids whose most difficult experience to date is not getting the flavor of ice cream you wanted at Baskin-Robbins, you certainly have a lot of deep-seated fears.”

We spent the rest of the night ribbing each other and checking the ceilings for strange, bat-like men who might want to do us harm. But the next day, a couple kids said they were trying to force themselves to fight back against their fears.

“I didn’t do the sweep of my room before I got into bed last night,” one son reported. “And I didn’t check the bathroom or the guest room when I went downstairs today,” another said. Turns out that laughter trumps scary once again. Take that, zombie balls.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at